Posts Tagged ‘kids’

unless you put them to work for you

Today, in my Environmental Class we talked about values.  That doesn’t sound all that sciency does it? Really though, evaluating our values is essential to identifying and solving our problems, including environmental problems.

I started class by asking students to define the term “values”.  What are values?  I left it intentionally vague so that I would get a variety of answers for us to discuss.  The students answered with the typical, “What we cherish”, “What is important to us,” and “having high standards”, whatever that means.

My favorite answer by a student today was, “Values are what make things important to us”.  Exactly.

That’s what I’ve been thinking about for a couple of years now, and have not been able to sum up so eloquently.  Values ultimately guide our life.  At least they should.  Values should show us how to spend our time, what we should buy or not buy, who we should be hanging out with, and how we should raise our children.

The value itself is meaningless.  Valuing friendship, or thriftiness, or family time mean nothing if we never call up our friends, buy a bunch of junk, or put personal time before time with our children.  Our values can bring meaning to the people, things, and activities in our lives.   Values can only bring that meaning, if we use them to guide the decisions in our lives.

I’m beginning to better understand how values are at work in my life.  In my former life, I used to think that people walked around with a set of values, and as long as most of those values the same, then we were on the same page.  What I have learned over time is that while many of us would say we have the same values, we are really coming from very different places because of the way these values are prioritized.

I may share the values of thriftiness and the environment with another person.  However, if we have prioritized our values differently, we will make different decisions.  If the environment is my number one priority, and my friend values thriftiness, we would make different purchasing decisions when having to decide between cost and ecological footprint.

If I value family time over career advancement, I might bow out of a business dinner to spend time with my family, knowing that I might be jeopardizing any opportunity for advancement.  And vice versa.  One that values career advancement over family time would make sure to get to that dinner.

Anybody bristling up yet?

Most folks would say that they value family time over career advancement.  With our daily choices and opportunities, we are constantly exhibiting what we truly value.

Of course there are times when our values will flop around on the priority list.  If someone is out of work, thriftiness and career advancement would probably move up on the list.  A new mom might forgo time with friends to spend time with the baby, because in that moment, that’s the value of bonding with the baby is what that mom wants to move to the top.

I tell my students all the time, that it doesn’t really matter to me how their values are stacked in the priority list.  What IS important is that they truly understand what their priorities REALLY are.  Don’t fool yourself into believing that the value of beauty isn’t important to you if you get you budget most of your disposal income to that purpose.  If that brings you joy, then admit that it is a value of yours, and start using it to guide your decisions.

What I have found is that I am happiest when I am making my decisions based on my personal set of prioritized values.  I start getting a bit depressed and anxious when I am not able to make decisions that are in line with my values.  Usually this happens because of earlier choices that I made that were not in line with the values that I hold dear and I feel a bit stuck.

In combining two families, we made the decision to buy a house that was bigger and cost more than we would have spent had we been one intact family.  We considered the value of a fresh start in a new home, personal space for every kid, keeping the children in the same school district and as close to each of their other parents as logistically possible.  It was a good decision for that time.  As we settle into our routines as a slowly combobulating family, the values of self-sufficiency, family time, simplification, and being present for our children are coming in conflict with the value of space for all.

So how do we balance our values, our budget, our careers, and the rest of our children’s family?  By prioritizing our values, and letting them guide our plans.

Whatever that means.

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